- Associated Press - Friday, December 8, 2017

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) - The owner of a Massachusetts store has pleaded guilty to her role in a food stamp fraud scheme that netted her more than $280,000.

Federal prosecutors say 49-year-old Esther Acquaye, who owns Esther’s Fashion Paradise in Worcester, paid some customers 50 cents for every Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program dollar and received the full value of the benefits from the government.

Acquaye pleaded guilty Thursday to aiding and abetting SNAP fraud, trafficking in counterfeit goods, and conspiracy. Sentencing is scheduled for March 7. The Ghana native who is in the U.S. legally also faces deportation.

Authorities started investigating when they noticed a spike in SNAP transactions at the store. Prosecutors say she also allowed customers to use SNAP benefits to buy the fake designer merchandise she stocked, which is against program rules.

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